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Old 12-20-09, 05:50 PM   #1
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Post Mexican drug lord buried quietly in family crypt (Reuters)

Reuters - One of Mexico's top drug lords, gunned down this week by security forces, was buried on Sunday in a low-key ceremony at a family crypt in the northwestern city of Culiacan, deep inside Mexican drug trafficking territory.

Mourners laid a heap of wreaths and flowers at Arturo Beltran Leyva's coffin during an overnight wake before he was taken to the Jardines del Humaya cemetery, where domed two-story mausoleums mark the graves of other smugglers.

Male relatives of Beltran Leyva, head of the eponymous cartel that splintered off from former allies in Sinaloa state, stayed away and the family shunned the ostentatious funerals typical of the drug cartel world in favor of a somber burial with just a few dozen female mourners.

Known as "The Boss of Bosses" or "The Beard," Beltran Leyva died in a hail of bullets on Wednesday when elite navy forces swooped on a luxury condominium near Mexico City in the biggest victory of President Felipe Calderon's three-year drug war.

One of Mexico's most-wanted drug bosses, Beltran Leyva smuggled tons of cocaine to the United States each year, laundered huge sums of money and is alleged to have ordered the murders of senior security officials after his brother, who worked with him, was arrested in early 2008.

More than 16,000 people across the country have died in brutal turf wars that have escalated since Calderon deployed the army against drug cartels in late 2006. Many were butchered and their severed heads left on streets.

Family members identified Beltran Leyva's bullet-pocked body after the shootout, which disfigured part of his face.

An entire airliner was rented on Saturday to fly his body from Mexico City to Culiacan, capital of mountainous Sinaloa state, where he grew up with smugglers like No. 1 fugitive Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman, a former ally turned bitter rival.

Female mourners trickled into a palatial chapel in Culiacan all through Saturday night to pay respects and leave wreaths as dozens of soldiers stood guard. At one point, eight delivery men struggled to get a 20-foot-long (6-meter) floral arrangement made of hundreds of red roses through the glass doors.

Male friends and relatives, who run the risk of being pounced on by police as drug suspects, stayed away.

Many in Culiacan, where residents turn a blind eye to the luxury SUVs and flamboyant mansions that signal drugs money, expected a raucous funeral would take place at Beltran Leyva's birthplace in the poppy and marijuana-growing Sinaloan hills that spawned Mexico's first drug traffickers.

Instead, his bronze-colored coffin was driven quietly to the cemetery accompanied by an army convoy and placed underground alongside his grandmother and other relatives.

Mexico's drug cartel leaders live large, moving between dozens of secret luxury mansions where they hold lavish parties livened up with teenage beauty queens and live bands who praise their exploits in "narco corrido" ballads.

After they die, their families pay homage to them with huge gaudy tombs, often topped with neon crosses and full of photos, plastic flowers, balloons, replica guns and model cars.


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